Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mid-Season All-Big Ten

Ok so we're not halfway through the Big Ten conference schedule, but we certainly are halfway through the college football season, so you know what that means- awards! Judgements! Calling out the best and worst! It's really why we blog, isn't it? Well for that and the free beer and all the chicks. Ok, so it's just for the judgements and calling out.


Offensive Player of the Year
Eric Decker, WR, Sr, Minnesota
Decker has a conference leading 46 catches for 689 yards and five touchdowns, and all of this despite being really the only Gopher receiver opposing defenses have to defend. Not because the others aren't talented, but because unless he's on the sideline, the quarterback won't throw to anyone else. He has caught 47% of the teams' 97 catches, and has almost as many catches as the rest of the team combined. Seriously. No other team in the conference, or the country, has a larger descrepency between their top pass catcher and their second guy (Nick Tow-Arnett and Troy Stoudermire are tied for second with 13).

Defensive Player of the Year
O'Brien Schofield, DE/DT, Sr, Wisconsin
Narrowly edges Michigan State LB Greg Jones for the honor, but Schofield has been SO disruptive for a 5-1 Badger team I just can't give it to anyone else. He leads the conference in sacks with 6.5, tackles for loss with 14.5 (including 13 solo), and has also forced two fumbles.

Newcomer of the Year
Tate Forcier, QB, Fr, Michigan
There's been some very impressive freshman on the defensive side of the ball, but no newcomer has faced more pressure, or handled it better, than Forcier has thus far. He's been asked to carry the weight of an entire fanbase who expects nothing less than Big Ten titles and national championships, and though his numbers don't jump out at you, his late game heroics, especially in the win over Notre Dame, should give Wolverines fans a reason for optimism.

Coach of the Year
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (6-0)
Just admitting he's been the best coach in the conference thus far is about as kind as I can be to an Iowa Hawkeye.

TOP UNITS (Giggity)

Offensive Backfield
Best: Penn State
QB Daryll Clark, and tailbacks Evan Royster and Stephon Green have not disappointed, as the Nittany Lions lead in total offense, are third in scoring offense and rush offense and second in pass efficiency. Of course against that schedule, they'd better be.
Most Surprising: Michigan
The Wolverines are second in rush offense, have a conference high 15 TD's on the ground, and are leading the Big Ten in scoring offense. Nobody predicted that when the season started.
Most Disappointing: Ohio State
Yes, they're fourth in rushing offense, but they've scored just eight rushing touchdowns and are second worst in scoring offense. Much more was expected of Terrelle Pryor, and his stable of running backs have been just ok in replacing first round pick Beanie Wells.

Best: Michigan State
Blair White and BJ Cunningham lead a balanced group that are tops in the conference in passing offense and are tied in TD catches.
Most Surprising: Purdue
Yeah, we've come to expect a lot of passing and receiving yards at Purdue, but we didn't know what to expect with a new coach and a really unproven quarterback and wideouts. Yet junior Keith Smith and senior Aaron Valentin have come from nowhere to rank in the top six in both catches and receiving yards in the conference.
Most Disappointing: Illinois
You could probably put the Illini in this spot for every position, but the receiving core really takes the cake. They were expected to be not just the conference's best, but one of the nation's best groups, yet are second worst in pass offense and have a measly three TD receptions as a group.

Offensive Line
Best: Wisconsin Badgers
The Badgers have the best rush offense, are third in total offense, and have given quarterback Scott Tolzien a chance to succeed, as he's been sacked just eight times. By the way, I'd be lying if I told you I have any idea who the best individual linemen in the conference have been. I don't. I don't have "pancake" stats or gametape to know enough of who has done what, so I'm not even going to pretend by naming individual offensive linemen for the first team. Try not to think less of me.
Most Surprising: Michigan State
The Spartans have given up a league low 6 sacks, which is even more impressive considering MSU is fourth in pass attempts. The Spartans are fourth in scoring offense and total offense because their line is giving the QB's time and opening holes for the young running backs.
Most Disappointing: Minnesota
The new downhill, straight-forward blocking schemes were supposed to work wonders for what was to be an improved offensive line. Instead, they've been the Gophers most disappointing unit (unless we can count Adam Weber? No? Anyone?) as they rank dead last in total offense, rushing offense, are second last in sacks allowed, and have had a rash of dumb penalties. The run game looked much improved against Purdue so there's hope, but through six games they haven't been anywhere near good enough.

Defensive Line
Best: Ohio State
There's some REALLY good D-lines in this conference right now, especially in Columbus, Happy Valley, and Iowa City. But I'm taking the Buckeyes group because they've played the toughest schedule of the three thus far, especially last week after handling a really big and tough Badger offensive line so well.
Most Surprising: Wisconsin
They owe a large part of this to Schofield, but the group has been better than expected and has helped lead the turnaround in Madison.
Most Disappointing: Michigan
Not that the Wolverines have been awful, but they were certainly expected to be better than 10th in total defense, ninth in sacks, and eighth in rush defense.

Best: Minnesota
We liked Minnesota's trio of Lee Campbell, Simoni Lawrence and Nate Triplett before the season, but we had no idea they'd be this good, especially Triplett, whose breakout year has elevated this unit from good to great so far. Triplett and Campbell are tied for the Big Ten lead in solo tackles with 41 apiece, and both are averaging at least 10 tackles a game. It should also be noted that Penn State will finally have their three starters on the field this weekend for the first time since week 1, and if they can stay healthy, have the talent to be the conference's best by season end. But at the halfway point, you can't argue for anybody else but the Gophers.
Most Surprising: Minnesota
Sorry to give them two awards, but they've been this good, and this surprisingly good.
Most Disappointing: Illinois
A big improvement was expected, but with injury to leader Martez Wilson, the bottom has completely fallen out of this group, the defense, and the team.

Defensive Backs
Best: Iowa
The "Ball Hawk"-eyes lead the conference in pass defense, picks (12), and are the only Big Ten defense to hold opposing QB's to under a 50% completion percentage.
Most Surprising: Penn State
Again, they've been to the Glen Mason School of Scheduling, so it's tough to get a read on whether Penn State's inexperience secondary is really this good or whether their competition (with the exception of Iowa) have been this bad. We'll get a much better idea in the second half.
Most Disappointing: Michigan State
Yikes, what is going on in East Lansing? Not only did the Spartans return plenty of talent in their secondary, but head coach Mark Dantonio's specialty is as a secondary coach! If you want the biggest reason for Sparty's disappointing season, here's your answer: MSU is third worst in pass defense while allowing a league high 13 TD passes while only picking off four passes. They're also dead last in red zone defense, giving up 11 TD's, eight of them through the air.

All Big Ten Midseason Team

QB Daryll Clark, Sr, Penn State
HB John Clay, Jr, Wisconsin
HB Ralph Bolden, So, Purdue
WR Eric Decker, Sr, Minnesota
WR Keith Smith, Jr, Purdue
TE Garrett Graham, TE, Wisconsin

DL O'Brien Schofield, Sr, Wisconsin
DL Jamie Kirlew, Sr, Indiana
DL Brandon Graham, Sr, Michigan
DL Karl Klug, Jr, Iowa
LB Greg Jones, Sr, Michigan State
LB Lee Campbell, Sr, Minnesota
LB Nate Triplett, Sr, Minnesota
CB Donovan Warren, Jr, Michigan
CB Brett Greenwood, Jr, Iowa
S Kurt Coleman, Sr, Ohio State
S Tyler Sash, So, Iowa

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